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What smuggled goods cost in prison



The markup on iPhones can be criminal.

Sources told The Post that new iPhone 14s are being resold in federal or state prisons for as much as $6,000 — a staggering 650% increase from Apple’s price tag.

The news comes after a man was busted for allegedly dropping items including drugs, cellphones, glue gel and even chicken wings into a broken window at the DeKalb County Jail in Georgia.

Phones, drugs and tobacco are the most coveted types of contraband inside federal and state lockups nationwide, according to law-enforcement officials, prison experts and recent ex-cons.

A few grams of tobacco will set back inmates up to $40, while small quantities of marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin demand up to 10 times higher than current street rates.

Some shrewd inmates concoct both crude and elaborate schemes to obtain illicit items, involving drones, pot-packed tennis balls or hiding drugs inside the spine of hardcover books mailed to prison.

Smuggled contraband evidence photo
An man was recently busted smuggling drugs, cellphones, glue gel and even chicken wings into a broken window at the DeKalb County Jail in Georgia.
DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office

“Inmates continually try to get around the measures we have in place to combat contraband,” South Carolina Department of Corrections spokeswoman Chrysti Shain told The Post. “They have all day, 24-7, to think about it.”

And they sometimes have help.

“It’s infinitely harder for inmates to gain access to contraband on their own, so the primary way it gets in is through guards,” prison consultant Christopher Zoukis told The Post.

At state prisons in South Carolina, where visitors and corrections officers alike must be screened, new 50-foot-high netting awaits anyone brazen enough to toss drugs directly over penitentiary walls, Shain told The Post.

Drone carrying a package
Some shrewd inmates concoct elaborate schemes using drones to obtain contraband.

“Before, it wasn’t really hard to throw a football filled with weed or cellphones over a standard 15-foot fence,” she added. “It’s pretty difficult to do so over a 50-foot fence unless you’re Jalen Hurts.”

Here’s a look at how much the most sought-after smuggled-in items cost in federal and state prisons — and how much they cost.

Phone: $6,000

As in the outside world, the iPhone reigns supreme inside correctional facilities — with the newest model commanding up to $6,000. Older versions or other smartphones can sell for as much $3,400; even cracked or damaged devices still cost up to $2,000.

Pile of cell phones
New model iPhones can fetch up to $6,000 in prison.

Cellphones are the top item in thriving contraband markets inside prisons, where inmates can use them to continue committing crimes or stay in touch with loved ones, a former federal inmate told The Post.

“Everybody wanted a cellphone who could afford one,” said the ex-inmate, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “But you also get in a lot of trouble, so they were super risky.

“[Guards] had these machines that could detect a signal,” he said. “And officers would run in and grab anybody using a phone.”

Cellphones are often smuggled inside by corrections officers or “free staff,” including cooks, counselors, nurses or other service workers, the Los Angeles Times reported in January, adding that some 6,776 cellphones were seized in California prisons last year.

Tobacco: $40 for three cigarettes’ worth

The cost of cigarettes, which typically contain about 1 gram of tobacco each, varies widely across the country, with an average nationwide retail price of $8.39 per pack, according to data cited by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. In New York City, a pack of 20 can easily cost $16. In prison, 3 grams of tobacco — enough for approximately three cigarettes — is around $40.

Cigarettes are a popularly smuggled item in US jails.

Marijuana: $60 per gram

Weed dispensaries and dealers are typically selling 3.5 grams — an eighth of an ounce —for about $50. In state prison, a gram costs up to $60. “Also, the quality of the goods impacts the price as well,” Shain said. “The price of top-quality marijuana could be twice as high as lower quality.”

Crystal meth: $130 per gram

The highly addictive stimulant, with highs lasting 12-plus hours, can go for up to $130 per gram inside state and federal prisons. That’s 225% higher than estimated street rates of $40 per gram.

Prison consultant Doug Pielsticker, who previously served 52 months in federal prison for tax evasion and conspiracy, told The Post that hard drugs are “rampant” in penitentiaries.

Crystal meth and paraphernalia
Meth can go for up to $130 per gram inside state and federal prisons

“Lots of drugs,” said Pielsticker, now of Strategic Prison Consulting. “It’s shocking how common street drugs are inside of prison. But in a federal prison, you may have drug dealers that are moving massive amounts of drugs across the border or wherever it is. These are highly sophisticated people who may have been successful for a long time before they got caught.”

Pielsticker said substances like cocaine, heroin or meth demand prices up to 10 times higher than street values, prompting some inmates and corrections officers to go to extreme lengths – including using coded language – to get them.

Alcohol: $15-$50 per cup

Homemade booze, also known as pruno or hooch, can cost as much as $15 per cup. Authentic, top-shelf alcohol smuggled in runs as high as $50 per serving.

Liquor bottles
Homemade booze, or “hooch,” can fetch up to $15 per cup in prison.

Cigarillos: $10

Swisher sweets cigarillos
Swisher Sweets jump a whopping 910% in value within prison walls.

Brands of small cigars like Swisher Sweets, commonly used to roll marijuana blunts, sell in stores for as little as 99 cents for a pack of two. In state and federal lockups, though, they’re hawked for up to $10 apiece — a stunning 910% jump.

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